It’s a sad day in the video game community as one of the industries biggest pioneers is no longer with us. Sega has confirmed with the video game community that one of their longest tenured developers, Rieko Kodama, has sadly passed away at the age of 58. Interestingly enough, fans discovered that she may have passed during the credit sequence of the Mega Drive Mini 2. At the end of the credit reel, it states “In Memory of Rieko Kodama.” When brought to the attention of Sega producer Yosuke Oskunari, he confirmed that she had indeed passed away, and further clarified that she passed this past May 9, 2022.
Sega has sadly confirmed that Kodama died back in May, but declined to share any further details out of respect for the privacy of her family. A pioneer and a legend.
— Kat Bailey (@The_Katbot) October 27, 2022
Oskunari added that they did not make her passing public out of respect of privacy for her family. Sega also made an official statement which was translated by IGN Japan “We pray that the deceased will rest in peace, and we offer our gratitude for her enormous contributions to Sega.” Other than the actual time frame of her passing, no other details were given in regards to how she passed, or what her medical state was. This was also more than likely due to the family’s request for privacy.
Kodama’s influence and legacy to the video game industry cannot be overstated. Her passion and hard work during the golden age of video game is well documented and many pundits have credited her as one of the first successful women in the entire industry. Kodama’s first big break came in 1987 when she served as the main artist for Sega’s Phantasy Star, and again for Phantasy Star II in 1989. Kodama would soon be given a much bigger role as she was one of the main directors for Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millennium. Kodama would continue to assist with the Phantasy Star franchise into the end of its run.
While Kodama also worked on other Sega projects during her career, perhaps the most recognizable and most famous title she worked on came in the Fall of 2000. That was the Dreamcast’s most popular JRPG; Skies of Arcadia. Working as the main producer of the title, and with some of the best talent at the time for Sega, Skies of Arcadia was critically acclaimed, and as we already mentioned, is considered one of the best Dreamcast titles, as well as one of the best RPGs of all time. Kodama continued to act as a producer after Sega ended their home console market production in 2001, contributing her work to many titles including Skies of Arcadia Legends, Project Altered Beasts, 7th Dragon, and Sega Ages.
Rieko Kodama passed away on May 9, 2022. I have very fond memories of her because we were Sega colleagues and created Phantasy Star and Sonic together. I wasn’t sure about the funeral pictures, but I wanted everyone to remember her. May she rest in peace. Rieko Kodama, forever. pic.twitter.com/lw9UTxLXbS
— Yuji Naka / 中 裕司 (@nakayuji) October 27, 2022
Longtime Sega programmer Yuji Naka actually attended Kodama’s funeral earlier this year. Sharing a rare photo from the event on his Twitter account, Naka gave a eulogy for Kodama’s life and career, which can be seen above. The video game world of today likely would not be what it is without Kodama’s work and is considered a major pioneer in an industry that was, at the time, dominated mostly by men. May she rest in peace.